Friday, June 1, 2018

Bed, oh bed, delicious bed . . .

This is a small and earnest ode of gratitude to the wonders of sleep.

I seem to need a bunch more of it than most people.  Even though I am totally a morning person who  tends to rise before 6 a.m. most days, I also tend to crash at night around 9 or 10.   If I stay up until 10 several nights in a row, I get grouchy and sluggish, so I tend to be pretty forceful about enforcing my early bedtimes.   Eight-to-nine hours a night of sleep for me, thank you!

And maybe the fact that I need more sleep than other people around me -- so that I have to almost fight for the opportunity to sleep while others are awake -- is why I am so very aware of just what a precious gift sleep is.  We get tired, we get cranky, we feel worn down . . . and then we go to bed. And eight or nine hours later, we wake up and . . . magic!   A new day is here and we feel better!   No effort required on our part; we just sleep long enough, and life is good again!

Eating also makes us feel better, but it requires cooking, plus cleaning, and money for food.  Exercise makes us feel better, but there's no question that it requires mental and physical effort on our part -- just by definition of exercise.  Sleep, in contrast, takes very little in the way of specialized equipment, zero money, almost no willpower or decision-making, and yet it works so well.   I don't take it at all for granted.   It's a frugalist's delight.

To me, monitoring my need for sleep has always helped me understand my overall health, emotional and physical.  I was surprised on my last sabbatical to discover I needed less sleep than usual -- the lack of stress showed up in my decreased sleep patterns.  In contrast, over spring break this past spring I was surprised at how many naps I took that week --- I guess my work has been taking a bigger toll on my body than I'd thought.   For me, the connection between sleep and health is so tight that on those rare occasions that I do oversleep my alarm, I take it as an indication that I'm at risk of coming down with something bad, and I deliberately sleep even more to give myself a health buffer.   Yay, sleep!

A bunch of studies point to the incredible benefits of sleeping more than the average American currently sleeps:  improved mood, heightened creativity, healthy weight, decreased inflammation, increased memory, stronger immune system and fewer diseases.  For a college professor, I'm keenly aware of all the connections between good sleep and our ability to learn and retain new information. 

But for me, I just love sleep because it feels so good.  Cuddle up in a warm bed.  Relax.  Let the day slip away and . . . wake up feeling calm and ready to go.  Mmmm.

Thomas Hood, in his long (verrrrryyy long) comic poem, "Miss Kilmansegg and her Precious Leg", had these lines, which somehow embedded themselves in my brain.   Now I share them with you:
Bed, oh bed!  Delicious Bed!
That Heaven on Earth to the weary head!
Now that summer is here and I can sleep even more thoroughly than I do during the winter, I'm glad to pause for a moment and add my grateful praise to Hood's.  Yay, sleep!

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